(This is the next in a series of posts about discerning God’s will together as a church body.)
Nine blind men stand in a circle, with an elephant standing in the middle. They are asked, “What is it that stands among you?” The blind man who is in the front of the elephant reaches up and feels and says, “It is a large hose of some kind.” The blind man standing behind the elephant reaches and feels and says, “No, it is more like a rope of some kind, attached to something very large.” One of the blind men standing on one side reaches up and feels and says, “No, it is neither a hose nor a rope…it is a large wall, with hair on it.” Which of them is right and which of them is wrong? They are all right. But they are all wrong. From ancient India, author unknown
If the key to building consensus in the church is to stay focused on God’s will (and not our will), then the biggest challenge becomes, well, the fact that we are talking about God’s will. It is a challenge because we are uncomfortable trying to reach agreement with each other about God’s will. If I say God’s will for us is “ABC” and you say God’s will for us is “XYZ”, then we have conflict. And in the worst of circumstances, we begin to question one another’s walk with the Lord. So, rather than risk that kind of conflict, it is easier to just take a vote and let the majority rule. That way, we can bypass God’s will all together and just follow the will of the people.
But as our nine blind men from ancient India teach us, “ABC” and “XYZ” are not necessarily conflicting positions. They may actually be two pieces to the same puzzle. All we are missing are the other puzzle pieces that connect them…the other puzzle pieces that contain the other 20 letters of the alphabet. When those other pieces get put in place, the picture becomes clearer, and we are no longer nearly as uncomfortable as when we began the process.
Discerning God’s will TOGETHER is that kind of process. It takes time and it takes prayer together. Frankly, it is usually a longer process than a simple vote, but the results are much, much better. Studying the puzzle pieces to see how they fit together, one with another, requires patience and it requires an open mind, ready to accept whatever the picture shows. It requires us to always be willing to let go of what we want in order to pursue what God wants. When we learn that process, we lose our fear of discussing God’s will, we lose our anxieties about change, we grow more patient with the lack of change, and we draw together more closely in our relationships with one another.
In short, we become the church we were intended to be.
© Blake Coffee
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